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And the next president of the World Bank will be …

Probably an American and possibly, some say, Bill Clinton or Andy Summers.

The World Bank is an institution created in the closing days of World War II to provide loans to poor and/or struggling countries based on the concept that a healthy global economy is good for all of us.

See, this ‘globalization’ stuff really isn’t that new. The World Bank’s approach to helping poor countries hasn’t always worked out too well or been seen as very healthy (see ‘structural adjustment‘ or economic ‘shock therapy‘ programs) but alleviating global poverty is the stated goal of the institution.

The news this week is that World Bank president Robert Zoellick, who before taking the post in 2007 was a Goldman Sachs executive (yes, they’re everywhere), is stepping down. So now the buzz is all about who will replace him. By tradition, the head of the WB is always an American.

Nancy Birdsall, at the Center for Global Development, asks Does it matter who runs the world bank? Yes it does.

Birdsall answers her own question with a strong affirmative, and goes on to offer some specific suggestions for improving the World Bank’s mission:

“It matters who runs the bank because the world has big problems the bank can help to address, and big opportunities the bank can advance.”

The Guardian’s Richard Adams looks at why Bill Clinton seems a likely candidate, even though former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also wants the job.

A number of organizations are pushing to end the tradition of appointing an American to run the World Bank. Interpress reports on a coalition asking the Obama Administration to say the U.S. will end its ‘monopoly’ over the international financial institution. Seems unlikely to be heeded.

Zoellick got relatively high praise from all corners for his time at the helm. As Interpress noted:

While the Bank’s relative importance as a source of finance for developing countries faded somewhat beginning in the 1990s as private foreign direct investment (FDI) poured into fast-growing middle- income nations, it has enjoyed a major revival under Zoellick, particularly since the outbreak of the September 2008 financial crisis.

He also helped raised a record 90 billion dollars for IDA, which provides credits to the world’s poorest countries; expanded the Bank’s anti-corruption efforts; promoted more women and developing- country staff to senior positions; and significantly increased the transparency of its operations through the revision of the Bank’s Access to Information Policy.

Can Bill Clinton do better?


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.